Sexual Assault By Police Officers Goes Vastly Unreported

by Courtney Bissonette

In the wake of so much police brutality, a lot of important news stories involving corrupt police get put on the backburner, if not forgotten about completely. Sexual assault by police officers are the second most common reports filed against the police, second only to use of excessive force. The problem is that the excessive force is so extreme and so well… excessive that sexual assault takes a back seat, usually while being handcuffed.

For example, the name Daniel Holtzclaw is not a name that is as prevalent on people’s mind’s as someone like George Zimmerman or Darren Wilson, but it should be. Committing some of the most egregiously unlawful acts against civilians, former officer Daniel Holtzclaw sexually assaulted at least 13 victims, raping at least 7 of them. Holtzclaw preyed exclusively on black women in impoverished towns, usually singling out women with a history of drug problems, prostitution, or warrants out for their arrest. He would claim he was taking them in to be booked or detox, but raped most of his victims and left them wherever he was finished with them.

It wasn’t until he pulled over a woman named Jannie Ligons, a 57-year-old woman from a wealthier town passing through Holtzclaw’s area, and assaulted her that action was taken. Holtzclaw originally had a bail set for $5 million, which was eventually lessened to $500,000. An organization called OKC Artists for Justice protested this, and is now calling to action all women who have stories that need to be shared to inspire other women to speak up in order to bring justice.

Though this is perhaps the worst case in recent US history, it is by far not the only one. Former Officer Linwood Barnhill of D.C admitted to forcing underaged teenaged girls to work as escorts and received a seven-year sentence. Former officer Carlos Becker, of Hempstead, New York was accused of using his position as a police officer to date rape his victim.

The point is that reporting sexual assaults by police officers is vastly unaccounted for. Whether victims feel they have no say in the matter, their word against an officer is not worth anything, whether police districts cover up stories to save their own men, or women feel the bargain of sexual favors is better than going to jail or paying fines, this is a major problem that is not being reported.

According to Newsweek, “354 of the 618 officers under investigation for sexual offenses were accused of engaging in nonconsensual sexual acts, and just over half of the 354 cases involved minors. […] Within the criminal justice system, sex offenders are difficult to prosecute, but officers accused of sexual crimes are even tougher to convict. According to a U.S. Department of Justice survey, 60 percent of sexual assaults go unreported, only 3 percent of rapists will serve time in prison, and the numbers for cops are nonexistent.”

What can we do about this? OKC Artists for Justice is working to inspire women to not let their assaults go unreported or unheard. Officer Daniel Holtzclaw is being sentenced on the 21st of January and in the days leading up, the organization has arranged several events and started social media campaigns using the hashtags #visibleforjustice, #blackwomenmatter and #sayhername. Today’s Day of Visibility campaign calls for “all poets singers artists storytellers, people with stories and people who support those with stories, to share a video on the event page on either Facebook or Twitter that can be about sexual assault, empowering women or anything about those lines that gets the stories out and using your voice gives us power.” The event will start at 12pm on January 20th and will continue for 24 hours. A link to the organization’s Facebook page is underneath and will explain more as well as keep you informed with more upcoming news about justice in for those assaulted. 

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To learn more about the events here is the video by OKC Artists for Justice.

Images Via Facebook/OKC Artists for Justice

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